NFC West: Aaaron Rodgers

QBs under duress: One key to 2012 season

September, 9, 2012
Good morning. Week 1 is finally here for the NFC West.

We haven't always agreed upon how the 2012 NFL season is likely to play out. We do know quarterbacks will play leading roles in determining outcomes.

Every team will be looking to pressure the opposing quarterback into mistakes. Every quarterback will be looking to make the best of difficult situations.

With that in mind, I've put together a chart showing how certain quarterbacks fared last season when under duress. ESPN Stats & Information defines these plays as those when defensive pressure forced players to throw early, off-balance or when they were getting hit. These plays exclude sacks.

Note that Arizona's John Skelton ranked 10th in Total QBR among qualifying quarterbacks, one spot behind Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. His relative effectiveness in these difficult situations affirms the Cardinals' decision to name him the starter after losing two key offensive tackles to season-ending injuries.

Seattle backup Matt Flynn isn't listed because he had only eight such plays last season. Flynn did well on those eight, however. He completed 4 of 7 passes for 139 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His QBR on these plays was 98.5 out of 100. But with only eight plays, the sample size wasn't large enough to warrant inclusion on the chart.

Former Seahawks starter Tarvaris Jackson struggled on these plays, setting the bar low for rookie Russell Wilson.

St. Louis' Sam Bradford ranked 33rd out of 34 quarterbacks, ahead of only the New York Jets' Mark Sanchez. He wasn't throwing to Larry Fitzgerald, of course. The Rams still need him to fare better in these situations. Having Danny Amendola back from injury should help.

We'll revisit this one during the season, which is finally here.

Final Word: NFC West

December, 25, 2009
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 16:

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith
Nick Laham/Getty Images A poor game against the Lions will not help Alex Smith's cause as the 49ers quarterback of the future.
Closing the deal. The stakes are lower for the 49ers now that the playoffs are out, but the pressure to succeed only increases for their potential quarterback of the future. Playing poorly against the Lions would damage Alex Smith's stock more than his three-interception performance against a much tougher team, Philadelphia, when the 49ers still had something to gain last week. Coach Mike Singletary stood behind Smith following that game. Smith needs to reward him. Advice for Smith: Beware Lions safety Louis Delmas. He's a playmaker.

All bark, no bite? Aaron Rodgers' bizarre accusations against Darryl Tapp add at least some intrigue to the Seahawks-Packers game. The way Rodgers tells things, Tapp bit him during a 2008 game. Replays show Rodgers checking his upper arm as if it might be hurting. But Tapp appeared to be wearing a helmet and mouthguard at the time. The Seahawks haven't recorded a sack in their past two games. Tapp left no known bite marks on the Bucs in Week 15, despite finishing with two quarterback hits.

Seeking that 10th victory. The Cardinals haven't enjoyed a 10-win season since Don Coryell was head coach in 1976. They should have little trouble breaking through against the Rams at home, but there's a chance Arizona will have to work for it. The Cardinals needed a fourth-quarter touchdown to beat the Lions last week. The Rams nearly beat the Texans. A disinterested performance from the Cardinals isn't out of the question, particularly now that the NFC West title has been clinched.

Divisional futility. Both 2008 victories for the Rams came against teams from the NFC East. The Rams haven't won an NFC West game since posting a 13-9 victory over the 49ers in Week 11 of the 2007 season, a streak of 12 consecutive division games. They haven't beaten the Cardinals since Kurt Warner tossed three interceptions for Arizona in Week 3 of the 2006 season. I thought the Rams would win at least one division game this season. They are running out of chances.

Bridges in focus. Losing a starting left tackle to a season-ending injury in December generally creates cause for concern. The Cardinals placed Mike Gandy on injured reserve this week without much worry. Backup Jeremy Bridges played well in relief against Minnesota a few weeks ago, but the Cardinals had some issues with protection at Detroit. They need Bridges to get comfortable and play well over the final two regular-season games. Warner's health could depend on it.